A Super Simple Way to Teach Children How to Treat Themselves and Others

A frustrated toddler frowns and starts to snatch back the toy that her brother took from her. Mom swoops in, holds her hand, and says what? When trying to come up with a simple, repeatable way to teach my boys to interact with others, I came up with this saying:  "We don't hurt bodies, feelings, or things." Over the years I have also added the caveats "at least, not on purpose" and also "especially our own". Since I have been repeating this mantra since they were very little, it has become ingrained.

Over the years my children (now 8 and 11) and I have discussed finding solutions for problems as small as "there is only one popsicle left" to bullying at school to international conflict and disagreement. With our little (but profound) saying, we have a simple vetting algorithm.  "Would that hurt bodies, feelings or things?" When I hear my children fighting or yelling at each other, even hitting each other, I can go in the room, de-escalate the situation, and remind them, "We don't hurt bodies, feelings or things."  This peaceful, loving way of being with ourselves and others is so important. Imagine if we all practiced this. In my work as a therapist, a lot of what we are really doing in session is healing the damage done from clients hurting their own feelings, or clients' parents having hurt their feelings or bodies, etc. Our work is also to grow a new way of being with oneself, a way that does not hurt our own feelings, bodies or things. 

Parents (and anyone who spends time with children) have such power, it is really mind-boggling. We are able to influence the very beliefs that children will form and carry into adulthood. We can proactively do this in a way that will encourage inner peace and love, which is a powerful step toward peace and love in our world. Simple sayings can be helpful, because they are memorable; they stick. An added benefit is that every time we remind our children to not hurt bodies, feelings or things, we are also reminding ourselves.